I’m always on the lookout for articles, blog posts, and anything else with some variant of “things they don’t teach in library school,” as I’m sure many of you are as well. These things usually fall into two categories: “things they should teach in library school classes, but don’t” and “things you have to learn outside the classroom.” As an LIS student who is trying to make the most out of her education, both inside and outside the classroom, I try to keep an eye out for both.
Thus, when I recently stumbled across an American Libraries Inside Scoop post by Chris Kyauk entitled “They Don’t Teach You Politics in Library School,” it really got me thinking. Should they teach us politics in library school? If so, how? Would that kind of education lend itself to a classroom setting? And aren’t library students and librarians already politically engaged as it is?
It would certainly seem that librarians often tend to be a politically active bunch. And there are a number of library-related political issues (access to information, intellectual freedom, patron privacy, etc.). Numerous previous Hack Library School posts have highlighted library student political action topics , including the Occupy Wall Street Libraries and the SOPA/PIPA Black Wednesday protest.
Additionally, library students are often encouraged both inside school and in their outside-the-classroom experiences to develop library advocacy skills. Elevator speeches and quotable facts must be ready at the drop of a hat.
And yet, as Kyauk alludes to in his post, getting real political support and buy-in for library issues is ever-difficult: “the political spectrum is rife with roadblocks for any kind of library legislation. There are so many things that Washington considers a higher priority—including the 2014 elections.”
While personal advocacy is one angle towards getting our message and value out there, it seems that real political engagement is another necessary piece. What are some ways we can start developing political prowess while still in library school?
- Get involved in local politics, and start bringing library issues to the forefront of debates. Go to a city council meeting. Talk to the librarians at your local institutions, find out how and why they’re struggling, and what you can do to help.
- Get involved with an organization like EveryLibrary, an organization that works on local library ballot initiatives. (Consider applying for the EveryLibrary internship! Deadline: March 15, 2013)
- Find a particular library issue you’re passionate about (whether it be access issues, intellectual freedom, or basic financial support for libraries) and tap into networks, both in-person and online, that promote activism around it. Connect with like-minded individuals and spread the word. While funding for libraries is an increasingly publicized concern, the general public often doesn’t realize that things like censorship still happen every day in communities just like theirs.
What do you think? Should library students be “learning politics” in library school? If so, how do you propose we do so? In what ways have you developed your library political activism?